Foodborne exposure to antimicrobial-resistant bacteria is a growing global health concern. Escherichia coli (E. coli) is well recognised as an indicator of food contamination with faecal materials. In the present study, we investigated the occurrence of E. coli in table eggs sold at retail supermarkets in Western Australia (WA). A total of 2172 visually clean and intact retail eggs were purchased between October 2017 and June 2018. A single carton containing a dozen eggs was considered as a single sample resulting a total of 181 samples. The shells and contents of each sample were separately pooled and tested using standard culture-based methods. Overall, generic E. coli was detected in 36 (19.8%; 95% confidence interval: 14.3; 26.4) of the 181 tested retail egg samples. We characterised 100 of the recovered E. coli isolates for their phenotypic antimicrobial resistance using minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC). A subset of E. coli isolates (n = 14) were selected on the basis of their MIC patterns, and were further characterised using whole genome sequencing (WGS). Fifty-seven (57%) of the recovered generic E. coli isolates (n = 100) were resistant to at least one of the 14 antimicrobials included in the MIC testing panel, of which 22 isolates (22%) showed multi-class resistance. The highest frequencies of non-susceptibility of E. coli isolated from WA retailed eggs were against tetracycline (49%) and ampicillin (36%). WGS revealed that tet(A) and bla genes were present in most of the isolates exhibiting phenotypic resistance to tetracycline and ampicillin, respectively. The majority (98%) of the characterised E. coli isolates were susceptible to ciprofloxacin and azithromycin, and none were resistant to the cephalosporin antimicrobials included in the MIC panel. Two isolates demonstrated reduced susceptibility to ciprofloxacin, with MICs of 0.125 and 0.25 mg/L, and WGS revealed the presence of plasmid mediated qnrs1 gene in both isolates. This is the first report on detection of non-wild-type resistance to fluoroquinolones in supermarket eggs in Australia; one of the two isolates was from a cage-laid eggs sample while the other was from a barn-laid retail eggs sample. Fluoroquinolones have never been permitted for use in poultry farms in Australia. Thus, the detection of low-level ciprofloxacin-resistant E. coli in the absence of local antimicrobial selection pressure at the Australian layer farms warrants further research on the potential role of the environment or human-related factors in the transmission of antimicrobial resistance. The results of this study add to the local and global understanding of antimicrobial resistance spread in foods of animal origin.
About The Expert
Hamid Reza Sodagari